The owner of the music store sits and thinks as the quiet music plays. He is not at ease, nor is he contented, as on most nights. It is the first time he can ever remember dreading the next workday. Oh, there have been days when he was not happy about the events he anticipated on the day to follow. There have even been a few people who caused him to cringe as they approached the entrance to his domain. But, this is different. For once, he is at a loss to know what to do.
Reality hit him today as he worked. It began with an ordinary phone call. Those happen with regularity throughout every workday and are not normally threatening in the slightest. This one was no different…he thought. However, the events following would eventually lead to his present mental state. As he answered, the male voice on the other end of the phone line asked if the music store were purchasing musical gear. Specifically, he inquired about a particular type of amplifier. Realizing that the amp was an older and non-collectible piece of equipment, the shopkeeper suggested that the man might do better selling it somewhere else. The caller was not to be brushed aside and insisted that this music store was where the person selling the amps wanted to do business. In an aside, he spoke to that person, asking what price they wanted to get for the amplifier. The price named was much too high, so the store’s owner countered with a figure, one which was commensurate with the age and stated condition of the equipment, but which he was sure would discourage any further conversation. Alas, the voice at the other end proclaimed that they would be at the store soon. He kept his word, arriving within half an hour with the young female owner of the gear in tow.
The young lady had tears in her eyes as she took the money. She hadn’t just brought the amplifier to sell, but had also carried in a vintage guitar for his consideration. Although it was filthy and the electronics were not functioning, it was worth much more than the amp. As she heard the price he was offering for the guitar, she began to tear up. Apologizing, she explained. First, she thanked him for the generous offer, considerably higher than she had expected for the old, dirty thing. But the reason for her tears was that this guitar had belonged to her father, now deceased. “What else can I do?” she asked, her voice shaking. She was a single mother, with three children to feed and clothe, and she had no job. She was grateful, but she was also heartbroken.
The shopkeeper murmured a few words of encouragement, and she thanked him as she walked away, still dabbing at her eyes. He watched the young lady leave, a little heartbroken himself. There was no time to dwell on his feelings, though. More customers needed to be waited on, and the phone would need to be answered again. More needy folks would come also. As the afternoon passed, he felt a strange need to work on the guitar he had purchased from the young lady earlier in the morning. It was covered with dust and bore the signs of having been played hard for nearly all of its forty-five years of existence. Dirt and oil were caked on the fretboard, and the switches and controls were dirty and emitted nothing but static when moved. He spent several hours cleaning and adjusting, repairing broken wires and straightening bent parts. As he worked, he thought. They weren’t happy meditations.
“This is not what I signed on for. I love restoring old instruments, seeing them brought back from years of abuse and neglect, but I’m not a pawnbroker. I don’t want to be the last resort for people, giving them money for their family treasures when they’re desperate. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
As he sits now and thinks, the beautiful, vintage instrument rests above his head, hanging on the wall. It is, once again, a thing of beauty, almost a work of art. True, it bears the telltale marks of use and age, but it is not anywhere close to used up or obsolete. From filth and dysfunction have emerged usefulness and vitality. He stares, almost unseeing, at the instrument and considers the lesson, wishing he could not see the truth before him quite so clearly.
He never should have let his father pray that prayer, many years ago! They had been speaking on the phone, his Dad having called from miles away in California. As the conversation came to an end, the wise man on the California end asked if he could pray with his son. If only the son had declined, he wouldn’t be in this mess right now! But, he had agreed, and the pastor/father had prayed those fateful words, “…and bless my son in his ministry there in the music store.” His instantaneous reaction had been, at least mentally, “What? Ministry? No! This was a business, pure and simple! Sell musical instruments, take the money to the bank, that’s all!” But the words couldn’t be unsaid, nor the prayer unprayed. Oh, if only that idea had never been planted in his mind…or taken root in his heart.
Now sitting there, years later, the shopkeeper laughs, a humorless sound to be sure. No. He had prayed right along with his father, agreeing that his vocation would be his place of ministry. And so it has become. He will see it through, because it is a worthwhile task. The heartbreak doesn’t decrease the impact one iota. It may not be what he envisioned, but God uses people in the way He designs, to do His will.
Many years ago the aging music store owner, then a young man, had considered the truth of the words which the Apostle wrote…”For it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Back then, he had accepted the challenge to want what his God wanted and to put into action what that entailed. He’s not going back on that now.
Tomorrow approaches. Too fast. The businessman wonders if it will bring more of the same. He hopes it will not. But then again, the beautiful guitar hangs there on the wall, a reminder that from disaster comes triumph. It is only as we persevere through pain that we emerge in jubilation. His prayer is that it will be so for that young lady and her children, as well as the multitude of broken people who will walk through his front door in the coming days. He prays that it will be so in your life also.
Our Father does indeed, bring beauty from the ashes.
“He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.”
“Now I know I’ve got a heart,because it is breaking.”
(The Tin Woodman~”The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum~1856-1919)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.